Gilad Perez

Rachel fears her cousin taken hostage by Hamas

Left: Rachel Meijler in Tel Aviv whose cousin Laor is missing. Right: Laor is  missing and is probably being held hostage. Pictured here with his niece. October 9, 2023. (Gilad Perez/Private photo)
Left: Rachel Meijler in Tel Aviv whose cousin Laor is missing. Right: Laor is missing and is probably being held hostage. Pictured here with his niece. October 9, 2023. (Gilad Perez/Private photo)

In one of Tel Aviv’s few open cafes in southern Tel Aviv, Rachel Meijler (49) expressed her concerns Monday. She looks back to that Friday night when thousands of music lovers came to celebrate life at a music festival close to the kibbutz Re’im, near the Gaza Strip. Not knowing that hours afterward, for some, that life ends abruptly.

Everywhere are still tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, and empty bottles – the leftovers of a party her cousin-in-law also attended. The son of famous Israeli DJ Darwish, Laor Abramov had travelled to southern Israel with his girlfriend. The bodies of at least 250 Israelis have since been recovered. But many families and friends are at their wit’s end for the young Israelis not yet found.

Laor and his girlfriend are also nowhere to be seen. The last sign of life is a photo showing Laor hiding in a bunker. Laor is the grandson of Jewish immigrants from the Soviet Union who fled there because of anti-Semitism. ”So, it’s cruel that he is now experiencing violence here in Israel,” the visibly distraught Meijler says.

Love couple

The boy is inseparable from his girlfriend, Tamar. ”They are a young love couple. That girl’s parents are just as desperate. I hope he takes good care of her, but I’m afraid that’s impossible.” On Instagram, Laor’s father calls for people to contact him if they have seen his son.

“I saw him every holiday. He is a sweet, gentle, tall, lanky man of almost 1.95 meters who could not settle down in the Israeli army.” Meijler says because of his age, he fears that Hamas, in the event of a hostage-taking, will not spare him.

Images of terrorists in white pickup trucks spreading death and destruction in a sizeable outlying field are circulating on social media. According to Meijler, the party was regulated by the police and had to take place in an open area because of possible noise disturbance to residents in Re’im and neighbouring kibbutzim.

No sign

But still no sign of Laor and Tamar. On Monday, there was still fighting at the neighbouring kibbutz Be’eri. “We had hopes that he was hiding there. But the longer it goes on, the worse it looks,” says his aunt. She has stopped watching the “uncensored” footage on X. “I’m already stressed from what I see in the mainstream media. Think of all the women who have been raped.”

Laor’s parents gave their DNA on Saturday. Israeli TV shows testimonies from families who can’t find their children either. “I’m afraid I have to hope he is no longer alive,” she says. “I can’t imagine that he won’t come out of this situation traumatized, and then how to go on? Maybe I’m wrong; they’re all sitting together and not realizing anything, but that’s unrealistic.”

‘Left-wing rascal’

Originally from Amsterdam, Meijler owns an art gallery and travels worldwide. So, she often slips away, giving her an ideal balance to deal with Israel.

Tuesday night, she flies back to Amsterdam, at least if her flight is not cancelled. ”I am a leftist ranter. I would give Jerusalem to the Palestinians now. Let’s live in peace with each other. But now another whole generation is so angry. The anger is getting the better of me too. I was already pessimistic; this would never pass. But now it’s over.”

Meijler holds her heart for what is to come. ,,When you show that 700 people were killed and 2,500 injured, it sounds like a lot. But there has to be a personal story behind every number.” She has a firm belief that the solution always ultimately lies in conversation. “But right now, there is so much anger and despair.”

About the Author
As a freelance journalist in Tel Aviv, Gilad closely follows developments in Israel and the Palestinian territories. He does this for the Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad and various other outlets. He attaches great importance to journalistic concepts such as independence and objectivity.
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